Regular walking and taking the stairs is a really great way to burn some extra calories and get in great shape. But if you want to do this in the comfort of your own home, you’ll have to invest in some exercise equipment.
A standard treadmill is a popular option, but if you want something that has less impact on your joints, or will do more to tone your legs, then the stepper machine could be a good choice.
But how to do you find the best stepper machine for you?
In this article we’ll look at:
- Exactly what a stepper machine is
- The key benefits of using a stepper machine
- How many calories you can expect to burn
- Things to consider before making your purchase
- Some of the best stepper machines on the market
- Disadvantages of stepper machines
Scroll through to continue reading, or use the links below to jump to the relevant section.
- 0.1 What is a Stepper Machine?
- 0.2 Stepper Machine Benefits
- 0.3 Key Considerations When Buying a Stepper Machine
- 1 The Best Stepper Machine?
What is a Stepper Machine?
A stepper machine is a low impact piece of gym equipment which has the potential to not only give you a full cardiovascular workout, but also help build lower body strength. This sounds like a fantastic piece of machinery, but what exactly is a stepper machine?
Well, in a nutshell, a stepper helps to simulate the sensation and effort of steadily climbing a set of stairs. You’re probably well aware of how tough it can be to ascend a flight of stairs, so it makes sense to focus all the energies of a stepper on this simple exercise.
A stepper allows the user to mimic the ‘stair climbing sensation’ by pushing against the two pedals. However, this action on its own wouldn’t be too taxing, so hydraulic cylinders control the resistance involved in successfully pushing down on the pedals. And it’s this resistance which is the key factor in improving your strength and fitness.
A fully functioning stepper machine will come with a set of handles – usually located around chest height – attached to a central spine to provide you with balance and allow you to concentrate your efforts on your lower body. This is in stark contrast to mini steppers which just tend to be a set of pedals and, as a result, give less stability, but are easier to store.
The other main rival of a stepper machine is a stepmill and this curious looking piece of kit is, essentially, a motorized set of steps that you compete against by climbing but, at the same time, lacks the hydraulic resistance and simplicity of a stepper.
Stepper Machine Benefits
You may be intrigued by the idea of a stepper machine, but you’re probably also wondering what it is that makes investing your hard earned wages into a stepper machine worth it. Thankfully, a stepper machine comes packed with a wealth of benefits to convince you that it’s one of the best routes into exercise and these are the reasons why you should invest in one:
- Low Impact – The beauty of a stepper machine is that your feet never need to leave the pedals, so there’s no need to be transferring huge amounts of force at high speed through your body. The result of this is that a stepper machine gives you a low impact workout and is just perfect for protecting your joints from injuries caused by impact damage.
- Indoor Workout – It may feel amazing to work out in the open air with the whole world around you, but when it’s pouring down with rain or freezing cold then it starts to lose its appeal. With a stepper machine on hand, though, you can work out in the comfort and warmth of your own home and don’t even need to go to the gym.
- Great Legs Workout – You don’t have to be a genius to realize that a stepper machine is going to benefit your legs, but it’s surprising just how much it can do for your lower body. The main muscles targeted are the glutes, hamstrings, calves, quads and hips, so you can expect toned and lean muscles from using a stepper machine.
- Better Aerobic exercise – A stepper machine can gently increase your heart rate, but never leave you gasping from breath on the floor and this means that it makes for a fantastic aerobic workout. And you’ll soon discover that everyday tasks such as running for a bus becomes that little less embarrassing as you won’t run out of breath.
- Weight Loss – One of the main reasons for embracing exercise is to encourage weight loss in order to look better and feel better. Stepper machines, of course, help you to burn calories and, the more weight you lose, the better your chances of warding off diseases, so it’s truly a win-win situation to jump on a stepper machine.
- Easy Exercise – Finally, a stepper machine gives you the chance to incorporate all these benefits into your life, but is all done in a manner which is ridiculously easy; you step onto the pedals and you push, so it’s an exercise which can be mastered by anyone is next to no time and ensures your motivation remains sky high.
Calories Burned on a Stepper Machine
The benefits of a stepper machine are clear to see and sound very enticing, but just how effective at burning calories are they? The good news is that the calories burned on a stepper machine are identical to those burned walking up a normal flight of stairs.
Now, we all know just how tough that is, but how does it translate into calories burned? Well, for someone weighing around 150 pounds, just 15 minutes of light activity on a stepper machine will burn around 104 calories. And when you’re exercising on a stepper machine several times a week this soon adds up into a significant number of burnt calories.
To increase the intensity further you can think about wearing ankle or wrist weights.
Key Considerations When Buying a Stepper Machine
Buying a stepper machine isn’t something that should be taken lightly. You’ve more than likely got very different needs and wants to the next person, so it’s crucial that you think long and hard when deciding which stepper machine to go with. Here are some of the main things you should think about when shopping for your stepper:
- Cost – The main thing for most people to consider is the cost involved in purchasing a stepper machine. Everyone has a different financial situation, so you need to plan on spending an amount of money which is right for you and isn’t going to leave you scrabbling round for dimes at the end of the month. Thankfully, with costs ranging from $56.99 up to a stratospheric $4395.00 there’s an affordable option for anyone who wants to keep fit.
- Features – Although the number of features also ties into the cost consideration, it’s a good idea to determine exactly what you do and don’t need as this could save you a few dollars along the way. Some people may simply want to indulge in a little exercise, so they may be happy to settle for some foam handles and the most basic of resistance options. However, others may want wireless heart monitoring and over 30 levels of resistance to choose from.
- Space – A stepper machine takes up a lot of room and not everyone has the space to accommodate one easily. Whilst foldable steppers exist, they’re relatively scarce and tend to fall into the lower price range and, as a result, have fewer features and may not be suitable for everyone’s exercise needs.
- Suitable for You? – People of all shapes and sizes exercise, but it’s impossible for every stepper to suit everyone. And that’s why you need to always check specifications such as weight limits (many steppers only support a user weight of 220lbs) and the product dimensions (you have to be able to reach the handles comfortably). There’s nothing worse than assembling a piece of gym equipment to find that it either doesn’t suit you or you break it within minutes of working out on it.
- Alternatives – You may want to explore alternatives to a stepper machine as, although they’re a fine piece of equipment for exercising, they’re not the only option available to you. In fact, there are a whole range of alternatives such as mini steppers which take up a fraction of the space or folding treadmills which provide a completely different form of lower body workout.
- Safety – The final factor that you need to consider is whether you have a safe area for the machine. You need to check out the floor support of the area you will be using it in and you also need adequate headspace above the stepper. Without considering these aspects of safety you’re increasing your risk of danger and injury every time you climb on your stepper.
The Best Stepper Machine?
You’ve digested enough information on stepper machines to finally start considering which one to go for, but, seeing as there are so many different ones available, it can be a daunting task. Luckily, here’s a helping hand to get you started by looking at some of the best stepper machines available:
The Stamina Spacemate does exactly what it says on the tin and helps you to save space by incorporating a folding element into the design. And all it takes is one pull of a pin to collapse this stepper machine down for easy storage. It’s not just about easy storage though; the Stamina Spacemate also provides foam covered handles to aid your comfort whilst exercising and the LCD monitor tracks your workout time, calories burned, number of steps per minute and total steps.
One of the best features of this stepper machine is that it’s incredibly easy to put together and should only take about 15 minutes maximum to start working out on it. And compared to some of the more incredibly priced stepper machines on the market, the Stamina Spacemate provides an affordable option which is sturdy enough to give you that exhilarating dose of exercise for years to come.
An excellent budget option for those who are keen to get started with a stepper machine, the Akonza Stepper boasts a wide range options to provide amazing value for money. The LCD display provides you with detailed information on workout time, calories burned and step count and the built in handlebar combined with non-slip pedals ensures that it’s a highly safe and secure piece of equipment.
At just $68.99, the Akonza Stepper can suit the budgetary requirements for many different demographics including students, the elderly or even those who just want to get started in the world of stepper machines. And whilst the price won’t bite you, this stepper machine will certainly test you in terms of exercise as it’s a very well built piece of kit and is sturdy enough to give you a really testing workout.Check Price
The Avari Free Stride stepper has a compact design which allows you to work out and save space. Thanks to its small dimensions, this stepper is capable of fitting into most spaces so, although it doesn’t fold up, you’re not going to find that it takes over your living space. It also comes complete with adjustable resistance levels and this means that you can gradually increase the intensity of your workout which can be monitored by the LCD display measuring strides per minute and stride count.
Although not the cheapest stepper on the market, the Avari Free Stride remains an affordable option for most. The compact dimensions coupled with the low weight (42 pounds) make it a great choice for those who have limited space and also aren’t keen on straining to move their equipment around. It’s also a stepper which is relatively easy to put together, so most people should have no problem and there’s definitely no need for a degree in engineering.Check Price
Although it’s at the top end of the marker in terms of price, the Precor CLM 835 stepper certainly deserves its position as a market leader due to the state of the art features it offers. With a self-powered generator system, the Precor CLM 835 provides a smooth action to ensure you get one of the best stepping simulations available; this sophistication is married to built-in touch sensors which allow heart rate monitoring and wireless chest strap monitoring for highly accurate monitoring.
The Precor CLM 835 may be expensive, but it comes with a 10 year warranty on parts and the frame/welds are covered by a lifetime guarantee; these warranties give you a real sense of peace of mind and indicate the quality and belief that has gone into its construction. And with an incredible 31 levels of resistance and 14 preset workouts, this is a stepper which can challenge top level athletes and get you fitter than ever.Check Price
Another high end stepper machine, the Avari Programmable Stepper comes, as expected, packed full of numerous features to mark it out in a crowded market place. The pedals are self-leveling and use motorized tension to provide a very smooth motion, but the greatest feature is the InTouch monitor which contains 20 different programs to tackle your health and fitness in different ways.
Despite the cost and number of features, the Avari Programmable Stepper is far from difficult to assemble and should be up and running (or stepping) in next to no time. It’s also an incredibly quiet machine despite the motorized aspect, so it allows you to complete a great workout whilst not disturbing neighbors/housemates. It’s the InTouch monitor which really excels, though, with its vast array of programs that allow users to target body fat, heart rate control and even four user programs to tailor it to your personal needs.Check Price
How to use a Stepper Machine
This short video gives an excellent overview of how to make sure you’re using the stepper machine correctly:
Stepper Machine Disadvantages
Stepper machines, like all products, aren’t absolutely 100% perfect and, as expected, come with some disadvantages attached to them. It’s always a good idea to understand what you’re letting yourself in for when buying gym equipment, so you need to get to grips with the following stepper machine disadvantages:
- Hard on Knees – The continuous stepping motion required to exercise on a stepper machine may be low impact, but the repetitive motion can soon cause sore knee joints. This factor means that a stepper machine may not be suitable for people with weak knees as it can easily strain them or aggravate conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis.
- Expensive – Walking up a flight of stairs is free, but simulating this on a stepper machine can soon become expensive with some models costing well over $999. And, after this initial purchase, there are also the battery and/or electricity costs to contend with too. After weighing up the costs you may find that it makes more sense to sign up to the gym for three years instead.
- Limited Workout – A stepper machine thrives on exercising your lower body, but unfortunately, this is where the buck stops. Whereas a piece of equipment such as a cross trainer will also exercise your upper body, stepper machines are limited in the areas of the body that they can work. As this means other machines are required to complete a full body workout, you could find that more money and equipment is required to achieve this.
- Repetitive Exercise – No one enjoys running up a flight of stairs, but there’s usually a payoff in the form of whatever’s up there. With a stepper machine, however, there’s no luxury payoff and there’s most certainly no change in scenery. And it’s this type of disadvantage that can severely compromise your motivation to exercise. Humans need to keep their minds occupied or they soon become bored, so the monotonous nature of a stepper machine could spell disaster for your exercise regimen.
- Struggles to Build Muscle – Whilst you can burn calories and tone your muscles, you’re going to really struggle to put on any significant muscle mass on your legs with a stepper machine. Therefore, this machine doesn’t necessarily suit everyone’s needs and, instead, it may be worth investigating free weight compound exercises in order to build muscle.
One step closer to a new and improved you…
The stepper machine is a great way to burn some calories, and being about to do it in the comfort of your own home is an added benefit.
If you are thinking of buying a stepper machine, hopefully this article will have provided some useful information as to the key things you should keep in mind, and the alternative options available.
Once you’ve made your purchase, regular exercise on the stepper machine combined with a healthy low calorie diet will help you to lose weight and improve your overall fitness.